I had a jury trial in an auto accident case in Anne Arundel County against State Farm last week. It was a soft tissue injury case with over a year of treatment. It was a case we inherited from another lawyer who retired last year.
The biggest weakness of the Plaintiff’s case is that he had few doctor visits before complaining of the soft tissue injury related to the claim. The Defendant’s biggest weakness was their liability defense never made any sense. The Defendant was, however, elderly and very sympathetic. Because the jury is never told insurance will pay the claim, expect this to be a factor in the recovery’s amount even if they suspect there is insurance behind the Defendant.
The jury found for the plaintiff but awarded only a little over $16,000. This thrilled State Farm, and I became depressed for a few days. They won, and I lost. That is how we both saw it and marked our scorecards accordingly.
But here’s the thing: State Farm only offered $5,000 on the case. It underscores how unreasonable State Farm’s offers can sometimes be when it views a jury award of over three times their offer to be a success.
I shouldn’t single out State Farm. We have “lost” several trials where the verdict was substantially higher than the last settlement offer, particularly in smaller cases in difficult venues, yet we still didn’t feel like we got what we should have.
A part of the reason insurance companies don’t feel compelled to make fair offers is that too many personal injury lawyers do not want to try the case – they take the settlement offer. If more personal injury lawyers held the insurance companies’ feet in the fire and made them try cases where the offers are unreasonable, we would have many fewer unreasonable offers. We settle a lot of cases where the offers are unreasonable because the client does not want to go to trial. But I think too many attorneys convince their clients to settle cases that should go to trial.